Archive for the 'Election Issues' Category

School Boards are Agents of the State

 

Instead of being overseers of education in their communities and the representatives of parents and public to the bureaucrrats in the school board office, trustees are really an extension of the provincial government.  Elected trustees and board officials, once they get in tandem after the first few months after an election and some training, become field agents to the central authority.  They are not autonomous like municipal councils.

This was well-described by a newspaper reporter before the last board elections last fall, 2008.

http://www.canada.com/northshorenews/news/viewpoint/story.html?id=95b2a310-5421-43b5-9646-f975e8883d78

School trustees Victoria’s puppets

"No taxation without . . . meaningful representation."

By Bill Bell, North Shore News October 12, 2008

If ever there was a dirty political trick played on the people in British Columbia, it is when we go to the polls every three years to elect school board trustees in the belief that the people we will elect will have a real say in the management of our childrens’ schools and education.

It was more than 30 years ago when I was first assigned the school board beat by then North Shore News publisher Peter Speck. Both North and West Vancouver school boards had "big" personalities running them, and in those days the trustees had real power over local taxation and in negotiating with the teachers and staff.

North Vancouver had Marg Jessup and Dorothy Lynas to name but two great and wonderful trustees who played significant roles in the development of the schools on the North Shore. And of course West Vancouver was chaired by the youngest politician in Canada, West Vancouver political power broker Mark Sager. School board meetings were always packed to the brim with concerned parents, teachers and taxpayers as board members dealt with bona fide issues at the local level.

Now the trustees are frontline fall guys to the directives that come from across the Strait of Georgia. No real budget control, no real control over the physical schools, and as far as negotiating with teachers, the real power there was taken away years ago.

So why would a bright and politically astute guy, like Chris Dorais, who has been chair of the North Vancouver school board and a trustee for the past six years want to run again in the November municipal elections?

I asked Dorais what he thought would make for better education on the North Shore; his answers didn’t really surprise me.

"Three changes would make a significant difference for the role of our board of education in local decision making:

  •      reinstating local taxation authority;
  •      dismantling provincial bargaining;
  •     discontinuing any provincial control over our local capital assets and sale of property.

"The biggest complaint I have . . . is not necessarily the increase in powers I would like to see, but is more about the constant change in authority delegated through School Act changes as well as ministerial orders. They seem to be an annual event or sometimes more frequent, and they take place with no consultation. "

What Dorais is saying is that even if the powers that be in Victoria gave back some of the local authority that they have taken away (school board local autonomy has been dismantled under all three of the past political administrations, Social Credit, New Democrat and most recently by the Liberals), the lack of any consistency by the government in its directives is driving him and many other school trustees crazy — not to mention a few school superintendents.

"Two recent examples would be the government’s 2007/2008 mid-school year announcement on reducing funding through a per-course payment for secondary students after the budget was already set, and more recently the announcement of restrictions on the sale of properties," Dorais explained.

So what is the answer? "The province has been taking away our local control of schools over the past 25 years. I really doubt that they will return that power to our local school representatives," said Dorais.

But he thinks that some power could be returned to the school boards and if that happened there would be some very quick improvements to the school system. Two that would make an immediate and substantial difference with additional funding are:

  •    long-term lease of surplus properties resulting in ongoing funds targeted to new equipment and technology for teachers and students in the classroom. Say Dorais: "I would like to see every school equipped like our new Sutherland secondary."
  •   funding for professional development and implementation of a new model for special needs education providing a choice for families and students and providing more support resources to help students and teachers in the classroom in the area of special needs.

Dreaming? Or strongly believing that his participation can make a difference in the lives and education of North Vancouver school children, Dorais is sticking to his principles and once again putting his hat into a political ring that demands long and hard hours. The only real satisfaction he gets is the smiles on the faces of June’s graduation classes.

Must be worth it!

bill@ontheroadin.ca
 

 

 

Answers to OUTLOOK Newspaper

Submitted to North Shore OUTLOOK, Oct 28/08 for their Election Issue.

1. Why are you running for election?

During this intense election period (Federal, US, local), and the economic crisis, I see a worrisome trend — politicians calling for more government to correct problems and the public lapping it up.

Where did this kind of thinking come from?
 
I see this blind faith in government as eroding and usurping our freedoms.  That we have a government monopoly public education system is the main reason for this thinking.

I’m running to raise the alarm that public schools are training a placid, uncritical, and dependent citizenry. This is all contrary to human nature and this social engineering has gone too far.
 

2. What is your professional background?

BA (Psychology)

3. What are the important issues facing the school district that you are
interested in addressing if elected?
 
– Honor instrumentality in the lives of people — individuality vs collective mind-sets

– Local school autonomy, parents governing their own schools.

– Abolish school boards which rob parents of effectiveness, instead channeling them into fund-raising.

– Make sure students develop solid academic skills and critical thinking.

 
4. Official campaign slogan

AUTONOMY

 

Published in the Outlook Online, was the following:

 

Although most school board candidates are hoping to serve out their three years, one West Van trustee hopeful hopes to work herself out of a job.

Tunya Audain, another federal Libertarian, is running on a platform to dismantle the local school board. At her website, abolish-school-boards.org, Audain explains that the school board is an unnecessary fourth level of government that centralizes too much power in too few hands.

Instead, Audain promotes more of an independent school model where parents look after their child’s school.
Audain, who last ran for school board in 1975, is also taking aim at adult classes run by the school board including quilting and yoga. No word from Audain on where classes such as Jewellery Junkie 101 and Double Nine Patch Quilt should go if the school board is abolished.

sneufeld@northshoreoutlook.com

 

Answers to Newspaper Questions

 

These are the answers I submitted to the North Shore News for publication in their forthcoming Election Pages (election Nov 15/08).

1.  Age – 71

2.  Occupation – Retired

3.  No of children? – 2 daughters, 4 grandchildren

4.  Political Party – Libertarian

5.  Are you soliciting sponsorship?  NO, not seeking CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees), teacher union or WVCGG (West Vancouver Citizens for Good Government) approval.

6.  Do you live in the municipality you seek to represent?  Yes

7.  What higher education qualifications do you hold?  BA (Psychology) Saskatoon, Teaching Certificate, Ottawa Teachers College

8.  What Parent Advisory Council experience have you had?  Was on executive of parent groups.  Got news coverage for protesting “Mickey-Mouse” English tests.

9.  For non-incumbents:  How many board meeting have you attended in the last 3 years?  Attended 3 board meetings in West Vancouver, North Vancouver, and Vancouver.

10.  What is the single biggest challenge facing your school district? 

Genuine parent involvement is lacking. Having worked hard in the early days to validate PAC’s I’m disappointed to see parent energy being channeled into fund-raising.

11.  How will you achieve a solution?

I will do all I can to accomplish local school autonomy. Parents should have an instrumental role in decisions on programming, quality, achievement and staffing.

12.  Why are you running?

I’m running to discuss issues generally and, in particular, to see how many people support abolishing school boards for the sake of autonomy and savings.

13.  You website – http://abolish-school-boards.org

 

Campaigning to Abolish School Boards

 

(Below are my background notes for the 2 minute presentation taped for local TV.  I don’t know how the final will look or sound.  Air time (Cable 4) for West Vancouver candidates are:  Sat Nov 1, 8-9:00 am & Sun Nov 9, 6:30-7:30pm.)

The last time I ran for School Board Trustee in West Vancouver was in 1975 and I ran then as a parent of 2 young students in the school system.  I wanted to make things better for them and others in West Van schools.  I did not get elected.

Now, I’m running as a grandmother, 33 years later, and in all that time I do not see things having improved….responsiveness to student needs, relationships with parents don’t seem to have improved…parents are still frustrated and families are still not meaningfully involved in governing their schools or successful in pushing for achievement goals.  In fact, things are worse, more complex, more entangled than ever…..

I’m running not for power or to sit for 3 years at symbolic school board meetings.

I’m running in order to have conversations on issues with people during this election period.

The main issue I present is that of the relevancy of the school board system itself.  I see the school board as an unnecessary 4th level of government.  Why do we cling to the large central control institution of school boards when we have the successful model of independent schools where parents govern their own schools?  Or we can try the charter school model where teachers and parents govern an autonomous school.

If school boards were abolished we would achieve enormous cost savings, perhaps to the amount of $1,000 – $2,000 extra per child which could either go to all students or dedicated to serving special needs.

Other issues are community education.  Should school boards, for example, run Yoga and quilting courses? No.

Should school boards recruit and educate international students — for profit?  No, that is not their mandate.  Leave that to the private sector.

Other issues I want to discuss with people are vouchers and tuition tax credits.  What about the idea, in the name of transparency, of having the board post online their cheque registry of ALL expenditures?

Basically, my belief is that the best decision-making is that done closest to the individual and in the case of education, closest to home.  That means having the family as closely involved in choices and decisions in education as possible. 

The best model for school governance is local autonomy, therefore we don’t need school boards.  Phone me or visit my website:  http://abolish-school-boards.org